For any of you who have felt yourself a part of a relationship which was dizzying in its highs and staggering in its lows, no matter how brief or long, your head very well may be feeling woozy in recalling the rapidity of its pace. While there are indeed many personality types and pathologies which can lead themselves to destructive cycles in the interpersonal domain, we will today briefly explore Borderline Personality Disorder and what this kind of encounter may mean for someone who is attempting to heal and recover in its wake. Much literature has focused on the trait of borderline personality disorder as it relates to women yet in recent years clinicians have noted that there may be a growing number of males who meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.
While there are many typologies of the borderline character structure there will undoubtedly be an intensity to the initial meeting phase. For a woman meeting a borderline male it’s likely that she will be dazzled and showered with heaps of attention and affection, “at last a male who seems to thrive upon open emotional discourse”. Despite all of those enchanting words and the promise of the sort of intimate encounter that one has been eagerly waiting for, the Borderline male or female will inevitably change as soon as he or she detects that you have been won over. What was once Casanova like attention and praise will become brooding and coldness, likely even implacable possessiveness. The conundrums lies within the fact that the more closely one moves to the center of a borderline person’s inner constitution the more resistance that one will note. The borderline has a hallmark knack for stirring up fights and dramatic interplays which make them feel more alive, the function of the heated angst is to shield against the emptiness of their true center. A borderline likely has suffered some trauma or abuse in early childhood and the sustainment of true emotional intimacy is a most insurmountable task for this person. If this cursory note sounds like someone you or a loved one now or eventually it will be important to seek professional help and be careful. If you are in the process of leaving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (or any other domestic abuser) this is the most dangerous time. The Borderline Personality will not respect or note boundaries or have any qualms about stalking or seeking to ruin a victim’s life. Their key note is abandonment and the game stakes have just begun increased for the borderline when a friend, lover, or casual acquaintance is attempting to diverge on life’s path. This often recreates a point of abandonment, abuse or neglect that the borderline had experienced in early childhood. The borderlines inability to come to terms with healthy boundaries and no means no mentality makes them a typical recipient of restraining orders and PFA’s.
Yet many people who are in a relationship with a person suffering from Borderline Personality disorder may not recognize the issue until months or even years into it, this is true even for intelligent and successful people who maintain such vivid memory of the courtship or fall victim to the Borderlines intense need to recouple after falling apart. If you were or are in relationship with a person who exhibits Borderline personality traits or a full blown disorder there is a chance that you too have had some trauma in your childhood or adulthood which puts you at risk to accept this kind of attachment. It can be significantly challenging to see the signs of the disorder as the Borderline is very skilled at using something clinicians call “Gaslighting,” for instance when this person goes into one of their episodic fight picking modes they will literally leave their victim with the feeling that it was their fault, they may cause a friend or partner physical, emotional, spiritual harm yet they will always leave their victim believing that they are to blame or even deny that anything even happened. The Borderline also may exhibit martyr like tendencies, spewing to all who will listen of how much they love their victim and how much they have suffered for their love, they can even make bystanders believe that the victim is the crazy one during their epic and frequent altercations. If you recognize yourself in either part of this description you may want to seek the help and advice of a psychotherapist or other mental health professional.
While diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder is the domain of a psychological professional who has been trained to administer measures and tests, here is the DSM IV-TR criteria for achieving the diagnosis.
A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts as indicated by 5 or more of the following.
1) Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
2) A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3) Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
4) Impulsivity in at least two areas that could potentially be self-damaging. (Spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating.)
5) Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
6) Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g. intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually only lasting a few hours and rarely more than a few days.)
7) Chronic feelings of emptiness.
8) Inappropriate and intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
9) Transient stress related paranoid ideation or sever disassociate symptoms.
Keep in mind all of you singletons or those recovering from a whopping dating fiasco, that if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t, if someone is moving too fast for your comfort then there may be something underlying all of that intensity and there is never any case in life which should permit a healthy person from recognizing that within life, love, and conversation, no means no just as well as yes means yes. J
In good health and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233